The pilot of a small, privately owned plane reported an equipment failure before it crashed on Gabriola Island, B.C., killing all three people on board.
A report published Monday by the Transportation Safety Board says the pilot was communicating with a controller at Victoria's airport when he said he "just had a fail."
The twin-engine Piper Aerostar went down on Dec. 10, 2019, at the end of a two-day journey from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to Nanaimo, B.C.
The board says its investigation was unable to determine who was flying the plane, since both people seated in the front held valid pilot licenses.
But it notes the lack of external visual cues in overcast skies, loss of instruments and the onset of acute stress are all factors that increase the risk of spatial disorientation among pilots.
The report says the pilot acknowledged instructions from the controller and momentarily lined up with a runway landing system, but the aircraft continued turning, climbing and then losing altitude.
At that point, it says the pilot reported the aircraft had lost its attitude indicator, which shows the plane's orientation or pitch relative to the horizon.
The report says the controller provided the pilot with a heading and instructed him to gain altitude if possible, but the pilot did not acknowledge that message.
The last encoded radar return for the plane was less than one minute later.
At the time of the crash, the BC Coroners Service confirmed that the three people killed were from the Vancouver Island communities of Mill Bay and Ladysmith.